Also known as blood poisoning (septicaemia), sepsis is the reaction to an infection in which the body attacks its own organs and tissues. Catherine Leong explains the risks and what signs to look out for
Worryingly in the UK there are over 25,000 instances of children per year affected by the blood poisoning disease sepsis. Whilst these figures are startling it is worth noting that UK Sepsis Trust, which I have worked very closely with over the last ten months, are now reporting an increase in the awareness of the disease, which in turn is helping save many babies and young children’s lives.
So what’s the risk for your baby/child?
- If your baby is under three months old they are at more risk of contracting sepsis as their immune systems are not yet fully developed. An immature immune system can increase the chances of contracting respiratory and urinary infections.
- Young children are also at risk of contracting sepsis and from my experience this can be difficult to catch. This is because children can be very good at covering up or compensating when they are under the weather, making an early diagnosis difficult. I have seen some cases where this has led to inappropriate treatment and septic shock – which is why mothers need to be clued up on what the early signs of sepsis are in children.
What can you do?
- READ – Reading up on the symptoms of sepsis is definitely worthwhile and can help prompt an early response. Sepsis Trust UK has a large amount of material to support young mothers educating themselves about the disease – one example is below.
- TRUST YOUR GUT INSTINCT – As a parent you know your child and their behaviours inside out and you are therefore in the best position to spot relevant signs and symptoms that the doctors and nurses will consider when making an evaluation of your child’s diagnosis.
- CHALLENGE – Make your concerns heard. Don’t be afraid to speak-up about the red flags of sepsis you have seen and ask the question. If you are sent home from hospital or the GP make sure you know what precautions to take and who you need to call if you remain concerned. Your maternal instinct is your child’s safety net – be in control of it.
What should you do if your child has symptoms of sepsis?
- Most importantly, stay calm.
- Seek medical help immediately – go straight to A&E or call 999.
- Don’t be afraid to point out the signs you’ve seen and ask if sepsis could be a possible cause.
In my experience of working with mothers, my advice to you would be to read up on the symptoms and trust your instincts. You know your child best – if your baby is crying or acting differently and your instinct tells you something is wrong, trust your gut feeling and seek urgent medical attention. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask: ‘Could it be sepsis?’